Ritual Mask

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mask, Ritual


a mask worn in various ceremonies (religious and magical dances). Ritual masks have been widely used since ancient times among many tribes and peoples of the world (in Africa, North and South America, Asia, and Oceania). Made of bark, wood, grass, skin, cloth, bone, and other materials, they depict human faces, animal heads, or the heads of fantastic and mythological creatures. One type of ritual mask covers the entire head.

The use of ritual masks is associated with the worship of ancestors, spirits, and animals, as well as with totemistic concepts. The wearer acts as if he were transformed into the creature depicted by the mask. Ritual masks have often been used by secret societies (for example, among the peoples of Melanesia, Africa, and America) and are used during the initiation of youths into manhood, raids, and the administering of justice. Ritual masks made of cloth and birch bark were formerly worn among a number of Siberian peoples, including the Shortsy, Buriats, and Nentsy, during certain types of shamanistic ceremonies; they were also worn among the Khanty and Mansi, during ceremonies after the killing of a bear.


Avdeev, A. D. “Maska: Opyt tipologicheskoi klassifikatsii po etnograficheskim materialam.” In Sbornik Muzeia antropologii i etnografii, Moscow-Leningrad, 1957, no. 17; 1960, no. 19.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Significantly, a ritual mask must be worn and danced with to become alive and fulfill the part for which it was conceived, or it will remain a mere piece of inanimate wood.
Yedalian's bronze "Solidity" (45 x 21 x 11 cm) could be a three-dimensional after-image of "A Glimpse." This small piece also foregrounds one half of a figure's face, the stylistic details of which is also redolent of the ritual mask or the totem.
Barnes (Paul Stevens), a psychiatrist who finds himself in an eerie Freudian dreamworld whenever he puts on an ancient Indian ritual mask. As he continues to experiment with the mask to explore his own subconscious desires, the doctor's grip on sanity is tested until he finds himself inexplicably attacking his receptionist.
Rather, they are drawn as entertainers and exotics: a debutante ball at "an exclusive Bronzeville social club"; a gathering of artists and writers; Eldzier Cortor, nationally known Chicago artist, depicted with a nude man wearing a Haitian ritual mask; a light-skinned cover girl posing for "Tan Confessions, a racy sister magazine of Ebony, influential Negro monthly"; and "Sepia Show Girls" at the White-owned Club De Lisa.
For decorating, Francois Delclaux of Nouvel Air built spaces around four major contemporary expressions: Raw: Ritual masks by Ethic and Tropic, fossilized stone table and bowls by Xyleia, amber glass vases by Pomax.
The 340 pieces include works such as utilitarian tools like sandals made from old tires, to ritual masks and sculptures, which encompass all aspects of West African village life.
Examples are the ritual masks created by the Lunda-Chokwe that represent characters in their mythology.
Samuel Asamoah, an artist, said: "Each mask symbolises something -- it can be love, beauty or unity." Other than ritual masks, you may also find wood carving designs.
Architecture, painting, bronze figures, pottery, ritual masks, handmade rice papers, dyeing and printing are the various art and craft forms of Nepal.
African ritual masks also take precedence on the stand of Brussels gallery Serge Schoffel, which presents its collection of Bete masks originating from the Ivory Coast.
Pick up carved wooden tables, or choktses, carpets, thangkas and ritual masks that are a brilliant riot of colours at the government-run Institute of Cottage Industries, where over a 100 students can be seen perfecting their craft.
From unique mask and costume rental organizations to folk deities, ritual masks, figures, and celebrations, Guatemala's Masks & Drama brings the reader right into the culture and traditions of the country.